Melting of glaciers and polar ice is being caused by Global Warming and is happening at an alarming rate – so say many scientists and the media; Global Warming is the most serious of many very serious problems.
Some 20 computer models predict rising CO2 levels concurrent with global warming and ice melt and the conclusion that serious problems lie ahead with warmer and violent weather, rising seas, acidification of lakes and seas, extinction of species and our own survival. Some scientists have pointed to the impact of dust particules on glaciers and snow pack. More recently attention has been directed to the impact of carbon particulates from ground based sources on health, global warming and particularly melting polar ice. Their belief is usually based on the “hockey stick” graph of increasing CO2 levels due to burning of carbon fuels in industry, transportation and similar sources.
Environmentalists, those with greatest concern, want immediate laws and action to drastically reduce burning of fossil fuels at any cost to save the planet. Others point out that such measures will have serious economic consequences altering life as we know it and may not be effective. Consider the history of laws on drug abuse, homicide, simple theft etc. Naysayers doubt the very foundation of global warming.
Listing a few of many “facts”;
CO2, water vapor and Methane are recognized as global warming gases (GWG) – true
CO2 levels are rising – true
Burning fossil fuels increases CO2 – true
Methane, a greenhouse gas is also increasing – true
More CO2 is now generated than absorbed – probably true
Glacier ice is melting – true
Global warming is occurring – short term, long term?
Therefore; reducing fossil fuel use by utilities and industry will solve global warming – not so fast.
Global Warming is causing Glacier Melt – Whoa. Let us reason together.
Unfortunately there are several important facts that are overlooked or unappreciated.
Actually there are several separate and important hockey sticks and special conditions that have not been considered. Each of the ‘sticks’ and ‘conditions’ have major impacts on both Ice Melt and Global Warming. Separating these sources and identifying their impact would increase our understanding and perhaps reduce much of the controversy that prevents gainful action on global warming.
These other factors will not be reduced by efforts to mitigate CO2 emissions from the “industrial revolution” and climate gains from CO2 reduction will be much less than hoped for.
This essay discusses these other factors which are not at the forefront in hopes discussion will result in better understanding and unified action.
Please note that credits for climate related studies is deserved by many individuals; there are neither staff, funds nor time to prepare a bibliography at present and I apologize to all the giants who made this writing possible.
Hockey Stick #1 — CO2 from the industrial revolution; the current bad boy.
This large and increasing source is the foundation for the CO2 ‘hockey stick’ that is creating so much controversy. Burning of carbon based coal, oil and gas are blamed for the rise in atmospheric CO2, which is then blamed for causing global warming, glacial and polar ice melt, acidification of the seas, loss of coral reefs, severe weather, and much more. Increased burning of carbon fuel to CO2 will indeed have an impact on all these problems however release conditions discussed below decreases the impact.
Conditions affecting impact of the CO2 Hockey Stick on global warming.
FACT: Most sources of CO2 are unique in that they are released at ground level, and disperse below the cloud level. Stack dispersion models were developed to predict where these individual smoke stack sources would reach ground level and their concentrations down-wind of the source.
Coal burning does not produce water vapor and stack gas is denser than air, tending to settle to ground level, liquid fuels produce one water molecule per CO2 molecule and is nearly equal to air density, while natural gas forms two water molecules per CO2 molecule and is less dense than air. Released close to the ground, this CO2 is subject to absorption into clouds, rain and surface water and by photosynthesis of plants and trees. North Hemisphere trade winds carry much of the CO2 toward the equator for some 2500 miles before air currents rise to 30,000 to 40,000 feet elevation for transport northward. At 12 miles per hour, the flue gas, will be in contact with surfaces which absorb the CO2 for 200 hours; 8 days. Only after this journey will the CO2 rise and flow toward the poles to materially affect either global warming or ice melt.
Hockey Stick #2 — “Natural” Sources
Termites, fungus, bacteria and animals generate GHG’s, CO2 (40 +/- % ) and methane 60 % from cellulose. There has been a large increase in domestic cattle which also produce methane and CO2. There is concern that melting permafrost may release unpredictable large quantities of global warming methane. CO2 from volcanos are intermittent and while a major release, belong in the “natural” category which cannot be controlled. Eliminating fossil fuel will not affect this source.
Hockey Stick #3 — CO2 from Aircraft and Jet Engine Exhaust
Jet Aircraft travel which began with the DC 7 airplane in 1958 is very much its own hockey stick and is growing exponentially. Jet Travel is much higher in the Northern Hemisphere. While CO2 from power plants and ground transportation in the US and Europe is being reduced CO2 from air travel is increasing rapidly. One report states Jet Engine CO2 now contributes 1/3 of total CO2. At jet altitude, air currents to be discussed below convey the CO2 toward the poles with little chance of removal. More efficient engines will affect but not reverse the increase in CO2 formation.
Further, developing nations are installing coal power plants at very high rates reducing any opportunity to gain on CO2 reduction.
Hockey Stick #4 — Jet engine particulates
Incomplete combustion in Jet engines introduces major quantities of carbon nano-particles.
These particles, ranging from 10 to 60 nanometers cannot be seen by the most powerful optical microscopes but can be detected, measured and “ seen ” with high powered electron microscopes and laser gas analyzers. Reports state jet exhaust contains millions of particles per cc. These particles strongly influence the melting of glacier and polar ice and affect global warming.
Jet Engine Particulates and Ice Melt.
Nano particles of carbon ejected by jet aircraft at cruising altitude settle to earth very slowly and are carried by air currents toward the north and south poles. A study of atmospheric currents and cells reveals why this is so very important.
Trade winds of sailing ship days blow slantwise toward the equator, then rise and flow toward the poles creating and controlling three northern “circulation cells” and three southern “circulation cells” that circulate vertically and to a lesser degree from east to west. Particles introduced in the Northern Hemisphere are likely to remain in the Northern Hemisphere.
Northern hemispheres “Hadley cell” currents, rise at the equator to 40,000 feet, flow north to about 30° North latitude, where a percentage descends. Just north of 30°, the “Ferrel cell” flows in reverse direction, northward but at a lower altitude, 20,000 feet, with much of the upper Hadley cell flows continuing northward at the higher 25 to 35 thousand feet elevation. This cell ends at about 50 ° North where a third circulating cell, the “polar cell” operates.
In combination, these cells create air currents at 20 to 40,000 foot elevation that convey many of the carbon particles to the polar regions where particles descend to settle onto the snow and ice or are adsorbed by precipitation and carried to the surface. Whether on the surface or embedded in ice or snow, the particles absorb sunlight, which heats and melts the ice.
Ice and snow do not reflect all sunlight and particles below the surface, especially black carbon, will absorb energy and melt surrounding ice, even at some considerable distance below the surface. The author observed this fact during Northern Wisconsin winters when snow plows mixed road gravel with snow and deposited the mixture on the side of the road. On sunny days, gravel sank into the snow and continued sinking even when they were no longer in direct sunlight.
The melting caused by particles will continue for more than one season, diminishing gradually as thick layers of particle free ice are deposited above it. The melted ice water trickles downward to the glaciers base where hydraulic pressure can lift the glacier and float it for a slide downhill.
A further impact of particulates involves cloud and fog formation which have major impacts on heating and cooling. Two very powerful examples of this effect on climate have already occurred on earth. London was famous for its fog, as well as its fireplace chimneys and chimney sweeps. Once gas fuel was provided and displaced coal, the fog disappeared. The killing fogs of 1952 and 1962 were a deciding factor in providing fuel gas. A second area with similar transition is the Los Angeles, California area. Common practice in Los Angeles County prior to 1960 was trash disposal in backyard burners. These were outlawed in 1957 and soon the heavy winter fog disappeared. Angelenos have trouble remembering when they last drove in fog while old timers remember getting lost in the heavy night time fog. Cloud formation is induced by particulates and is a major factor in heat retention. The author was well aware of this nearly 80 years ago in Northern Wisconsin where frost could be expected during summer months on any night with a full moon and clear skies. Standard practice included covering all vegetable and flower gardens on those nights and to begin cutting corn fields before leaves dried up from frost damage.
Hockey Stick #4, Carbon particles and severe weather
The northern jet stream has been reported as moving southward during each summer and then returning northward in winter. It has also been reported as moving farther south. In Europe, the stream had been over norther Europe but is now south of the Mediteranean sea. Americas jet stream flows west to east and bends sharply southward over land and east of mountain ranges. As ice melts at the poles, air currents at ground level in the Ferrell cells become warmer. This warmer air pushes the jet stream farther south, and likely creates not only cooler days but stormier weather.
Hockey Stick 4,Carbon particulates and global warming
Atmospheric carbon particles do absorb light energy. This is demonstrated in the inspection instrument which uses laser light energy to heat nano size carbon particles to high temperature for detection and recording.
There are four effects from this absorption of energy;
First, the particle is heated and then heats air in contact with the particle.
Second, The heated particles will radiate heat to earth.
Third; radiation from earth will be affected because our earth will “see” the particles at – 60 °F (400 ° Rankine) , rather than outer space at absolute zero, 0 °Rankine. Whatever portion of the sky is blocked by particulates will reduce radiation by 1/3. Our good earth has a center core that is much hotter than the surface. There is a constant flow of heat from that core to the surface and then lost by radiation to outer space. The loss is affected by a band of carbon particles.
Sun energy adds to the earth energy balance but so much emphasis is placed on CO2 that the earths central firebox and radiation is ignored.
Fourth, Carbon particles over the poles will be solar heated 24 hours each day during summer increasing their impact at the poles.
FINALLY; What can be done?
Saving the Glaciers by reducing carbon particulates formed by jet engines.
In my humble opinion, reducing these particles can be done and should be separated from the global warming debate. This is doable.
1. Reducing air travel or the need for business trips or the desire for flying is an unlikely possibility.
Earths citizens are hooked on the ease and wonder of flying which encourages world travel. England has suggested increasing the cost of air travel but is unlikely to act. Any significant increase would exclude the poor but not deter the rich creating class warfare.
2. Requiring aircraft to always fly below the clouds is simply impossible because of noise, inefficiency, and safety.
3. Modifying jet fuel would be fairly easy.
Gasoline in California has been modified for years to reduce smog. Tetraethyl lead was replaced with oxygenate type compounds like MTBE and Ethyl Alcohol. Biodiesel ( fatty acid-methyl ester) has been successfully tested in aircraft engines and generates less pollution. This fuel has two oxygen atoms per molecule and other oxygenate materials can be manufactured. Biodiesel blends with petroleum diesel and all biodiesel available should be diverted to Jet Fuel Blends. Biodiesel from algae is advancing but is not commercial.
4. Engine changes to reduce particulate emissions is most desirable and should be pursued diligently.
In a jet engine, liquid fuel is atomized ( very tiny droplets ) and injected into several combustion chambers. High temperature vaporizes most of the liquid but also can crack the molecules creating carbon ( coke ). Hydrocarbon vapors combine with oxygen in hot compressed air to produce CO2 and one molecule of water vapor for each molecule of CO2. It is possible that each atomized droplet forms a nano-particle of carbon or a cluster of particles, and larger droplets might reduce the number and size of particles but require larger combustion cans.
Other possible engine changes include size and shape of combustion cans; adding catalytic converters which often ‘coke up’ and would need to ‘burned off’ on the ground. Oil refineries have a long history producing lighter fuels from heavy compounds with “catalytic cracking” and “delayed cokers”. That knowledge and experience should be appreciated and used.
While jet engine changes could improve combustion this cannot be expected to happen quickly or without major investment. Replacing complete aircraft with more efficient ones would take still longer though there are attempts to design more efficient, slower planes.
Changing fuel properties could happen more quickly. Jet fuels require high energy density all but eliminating hydrogen. Biofuels are unique in that they provide a near zero net increase in global CO2 but also burn more cleanly and reduce the troublesome particulates.
Reducing Global Warming
Numerous articles in science journals have discussed the availability and cost of technologies that would eliminate fossil fuels and also eliminate the carbon particles that heat our atmosphere. None have been developed or are currently capable of providing large amounts of reliable GHG free energy. Environmentalist opinions often disagree but have not demonstrated that it can be done. Most depend on heavy government subsidy which means first, diverting limited funds from other ‘necessary’ programs and second, increasing taxes and also cost of energy with serious consequences.
Because reducing CO2 by curtailing fossil fuels is so expensive and disruptive if implemented quickly there is actually only one technology available, and that requires a different approach and mindset. Smaller nuclear plants with the reactors installed underground, like Minuteman missiles, and using air cooling instead of water cooling could be safe, practical and could be built rather quickly near major users eliminating CO2 and particulate carbon.
In comparison; fusion power has absorbed billions of research dollars but has yet to achieve net power output. Decades may be required to reach that goal, then more decades to create new materials of construction, then more decades to reduce costs to competitive levels and prove safe operation and perhaps more decades to reduce size to affordable levels.
Wind power does not exist near large users and until superconductivity is available, cost of power lines, cost of voltage drop and cost of storage will limit useful capacity. Solar needs large cheap storage to avoid building quick start backup plants to support times of zero production.
Of the many possible programs, reducing carbon particulates from jet aircraft has a reasonable chance to save the polar ice and reduce global warming. The writer encourages all parties to consider this as a path for progress.